What do the Landing, the Loft, the Bridge, the Retreat, the Mix and the Greenhouse all have in common?

Answer: they’re all new working spaces for employees of Deloitte in London, since an extension of its ‘campus’ into 1 New Street Square in July 2018.

Devinder Bhogal, head of workplace strategy, Deloitte

With the help of fit-out specialist Overbury, the 270,000 sq ft building – within easy reach of the firm’s other London spaces – has achieved a record 94% for refurbishment and fit-out sustainability, as measured by green-building certifier BREEAM. It’s also the largest project in the world to be certified ‘gold’ by the WELL Building Institute, which considers factors affecting people’s physical and mental health in a space.

It was time for a change of scene in any case – one lease ending and another with a lease break. But Devinder Bhogal, head of workplace strategy at Deloitte UK, says the biggest driver for this transformation journey was what the firm had already gleaned of how people’s working patterns were changing.

“Our people were working from home a lot more; there was already a lot more choice about whether to come to the campus at all. And when they did choose to be in the office, they were working in more locations. People are no longer at desks all day – they’re collaborating in project teams or choosing the coffee shop for meetings.”

Adding to this was some hard data about occupancy, she says. “Some departments were only in 60% of the time – even with headcount growing – so the status quo just wasn’t efficient.”

Seeing movement

Following consultation to back this up, Overbury, interior designer ID:SR and mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) consultant/sustainability assessor Hoare Lea, worked to ensure that the spaces available for work in the new building would therefore prioritise much greater fluidity between them.

Bhogal explains: “One service line was already moving to work a lot more across different industries. We decided this space had to support decisions like that – new teams forming and then reforming.” So, groups can decide to move into one of a number of office “neighbourhoods” for a time. These contain multipurpose rooms, team tables out on the floor and phone booths, some of which can simply be booked and utilised on the day.

“Two entire floors are not assigned to any part of the business at all. Anyone can pre-book a space for one week – or by tapping a screen on the day – and are equipped with tables, whiteboards and collaboration tools. You can bring a team together quickly, and get away from your regular work space.”

And the experience for Deloitte’s clients onsite has also changed. “There’s a lot more informality, through co-working and business-lounge-feel spaces. We’ve kept some more formal rooms for when we need them, but you can easily turn up with a client spontaneously for a coffee – which is also a natural opportunity to introduce others.”

Health management

And more movement between spaces doesn’t only facilitate collaboration. Less time sitting at a desk is also just one of the WELL design factors.

“A central, open plan staircase connects all floors in the building, encouraging people to move more, and half of desks are adjustable to standing height,” says Bhogal. Half of meeting spaces are also designed for standing rather than sitting.

There’s a terrace for a spontaneous breath of fresh air, social areas where people can pull up a beanbag, and a tech-free ‘retreat’ for time out from everything. In fact, WELL certification depends on meeting criteria in seven categories – air, water, lighting, nourishment, fitness, comfort and mental health. “People are entitled to a break, and it’s important to provide the space for it,” says Bhogal.

Deloitte worked with Overbury on the thinking behind the design and features that would meet both these objectives and improvements in environmental sustainability. For example, a move to 100% renewable electricity supply has reduced emissions by 72% per full-time employee. Waste per person is down 25% and overall energy consumption by 27%/m2.

Another important decision here, says Bhogal, was the choice and finish of materials – right down to the paint or wall covering outside a meeting room. “Suppliers managed by Overbury had to meet certain criteria before we saw the products, and it was especially helpful that we could test them in situ to see how things worked, as well as how they looked.” In addition to sustainability, for example, processes of maintenance and cleaning and risk of damage were up for consideration.

Two entire floors are not assigned to any part of the business at all. You can bring a team together quickly, and get away from your regular work space.
Devinder Bhogal, head of workplace strategy, Deloitte

Better behaviours

The firm isn’t directly measuring post-move productivity or retention of people, as it’s hard to make the causal connection. Instead, the key to demonstrating return on this investment so far is positive employee feedback.

But some information is monitored to help keep certain things running as optimally as possible. For example, sensors are measuring the occupancy of spaces to build a better understanding of how they’re being used. Large floor-plan screens show the current population in near real-time. And printing/storage reduction goes further than a strict clear-desk policy and larger screen estate to reduce the urge. The building has introduced “connected lockers”, which can only be accessed with your pass. “Data will highlight if one hasn’t been used for a period, and we can challenge whether the user really needs the space,” explains Bhogal. “Printing is reduced in any case, as there’s nowhere to put it apart from a small locker overnight.” In this way, as well as accommodating the ways people want to work today, some design and facilities choices are helping them to modify their ways.

Softening skills

Change is usually a challenge – perhaps even when it’s to something new and exciting. As well as carrying out the fit-out, therefore, Overbury also played a key role in the change management effort to help produce a “soft landing”.

Bhogal says: “We tried to think very hard about testing everything from the point of view of user experience. For example, furniture was physically mocked up in the new building, as well as elsewhere on the campus, so people could start to use it well before it was officially available.

“It’s all well and good to have an interactive floor plan, but Overbury worked with us to programme activities and ensure our people understood how they could make maximum and efficient use of their new space as soon as it was open to them.”